‘Practice Along With Proper Analysis Is The Key’ – Subham Agarwala, 95.8%ile In XAT

The oldest B-School of the country, XLRI has been ranked as one of the best B-Schools of India and ranked first among private B-schools.  Renowned for offering an education that encompasses business studies along with a holistic development of students through its vibrant committee culture, social initiatives and projects, it is not for no reason that corporate organizations make a beeline for hiring from XLRI.

In the run-up to XAT 2019,  current students of XLRI share with you the things that worked for them during their preparation and the tips and tricks that helped them fulfill their dream of studying at this prestigious institute.

As a part of the ongoing series, Subham Agarwala (HRM 2018-20) shares his preparation strategy for the exam:


What was your XAT 2018 overall and sectional percentile? Apart from XAT, which other entrances you appeared for and what were your percentiles?

Overall Percentage: 95.84

Quantitative Ability: 94.811

Verbal and Logical Ability: 91.341

Decision Making: 76.730

I did not appear for any other entrance.


What was your preparation strategy? Please share section-wise strategy in detail. 

On analysing the XAT question papers, I realised that for every topic, one needs proper concepts, speed and accuracy. The absence of any one of them renders the preparation futile. I evaluated my preparation for any topic on these three parameters.

For quants, I made a point to read the theory before venturing into the problems. This saves a lot of time as one does not have to juggle between theory and problems, every time one is stuck.

The next task was to solve questions of different types and of varying levels of difficulty.

For logical reasoning, I went through a lot of examples in order to understand the approach taken to tackle different types of problems. For logical reasoning, one must be able to make correct inferences based on the data given. This skill can be developed only through adequate practise.

Decision making is a critical area and I had a difficult time working my way around them. I prepared for this section by extensively going through and solving the past XAT questions. This helped me understand the type of questions I could expect in the exam.

For verbal ability, I started reading a lot in general. Also, I made a list of the new words I encountered and kept revisiting those words so as to completely absorb them into my system. I also went through past question papers to gauge the difficulty level I shall be facing in the examination hall.


How did you prepare – Self-study or Coaching? Please explain which one do you think is better?

I prepared for XAT by taking coaching classes from a reputed institute. Self-studying or taking up coaching classes depends on the circumstances and preferences of a particular individual.

However, coaching classes provide one with the framework that has to be followed for proper preparation. This is very helpful as it smoothens out the preparation timeline and structure. The materials provided by the coaching institutes are up to date and cover all the topics and types of problems one can expect. Hence, they become an important tool for one’s preparation. However, the most beneficial tool provided by the coaching institutes is the All India Mock Test Series. The mocks are the best way to analyse one’s performance, strength and weaknesses. One can then work on them to improve the overall results.

Having said that, I would also like to mention that coaching is not a substitute for self-studying; it is an add-on.

When did you start preparing for XAT? Please share in detail your month-wise preparation strategy for XAT in terms of 6 months, 3 months, 2 months, 1 month and last minute strategy you followed. 

I started my preparation for about 9 months before the exam as I also had to study my undergrad subjects. By the time 6 months were left I had started giving mocks and started analysing my performance seriously. If needed, I would revise entire chapters in order to improve on the performance. At this point, I was still learning new concepts and solving new types of problem.

By the time only 3 months were left, I was giving mocks on a weekly basis. Also, I was constantly solving problems from past XAT examinations. Here I was still improving on my weak areas. Also, I was looking at topics that are part of the syllabus but not generally asked.

By the time only one month was left I was giving at least two mocks per week. I had stopped trying to learn any new concept and focused mainly on improving my speed and accuracy. I was able to certain patterns in the mistakes I was making. This helped me to avoid them on the examination day.

During the exam week, I tried to get as much quality sleep as I could. Now I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the exam. It is very important to reach the examination hall with a fresh and alert mind in order to perform well.


How did you balance your preparation with studies or job? Please share your timetable. (if relevant)

As I am a fresher, I had to balance my undergrad studies with my XAT preparation. Apart from the time spent at coaching classes, I set aside two hours on weekdays and about four hours on weekends for my XAT preparation. I scheduled the rest of my day so as to remain undisturbed during these hours. The pattern broke during the university exams, but I tried to compensate for the lost time by putting in the extra effort once the exam was over. Although I did not have a particular timetable, I practised QA, DI and LR every day, while alternating between verbal and decision making


What was the one thing that you did consistently during your preparation? Or What do you think one should do consistently during the preparation of XAT? According to you, what is the most important aspect of preparation?

I think that timekeeping, accuracy check and self-analysis are the most important aspects of one preparation. I constantly tried to improve my accuracy and reduce the time taken to solve a certain number of problems of the same difficulty level.  Also after every practice session, I used to look up the solutions to questions I couldn’t answer or answer wrongly. Next day, my practice would begin by re-attempting those specific problems. There is no point in practising if you are not learning from your mistakes.

What are the best study materials for XAT or other exams? Please name some books, or other study materials (even newspaper/magazines) and online materials you had referred to during preparation. In terms of online or offline materials, which one did you prefer and why?

My preparation was largely based on the materials provided by the coaching institute. Apart from that I constantly referred to the books by Arun Sharma. Also, I made it a habit to read essays on various topics. Aeon.co is a fantastic website for reading essays contributed by experts in different fields.

For practice, I always preferred the offline material over online material as it made the learning process faster and more comfortable for me.

When did you start taking mock test and what was the frequency? How did you get it analysed and integrate it into your preparation?

Mocks were a very important part of my preparation. I took the first mock just when I had started my preparation to gauge my level at that point in time. I then took my next mock, three months into my preparation. Initially, I took them every alternate week and then increased the frequency as more and more time passed. By the end, I was taking at least two to three mocks every week. Through the mocks, I got to know my area of strength and weakness. I analysed the mistakes I was making, identified concepts that needed revision and tried to improve my score with every mock. Also the section-wise break up helped me a lot to develop all the sections together, which is important for meeting sectional cut-offs.


How one with non-English background should prepare him/herself for the exam as the mode of the exam is only English? 

I believe that when it comes to English, there is no alternative to reading. One must make it a habit to read newspapers, novels, magazines etc. to improve one’s English. Since GD PIs are an essential part of the selection process one must also practicing speaking out loud and speaking in front of friends and family. One other thing that worked for my friend with a non-English background, is watching popular talk shows. This helped him pick up English speaking skills quite fast.


What was your exam day strategy in terms of question selection, time management, accuracy and sectional attempts/cutoffs? 

On the exam day, my strategy was to browse through the questions and identify the question from each section which would consume the least amount of time. I then spent 15-20 minutes per section in answering these questions. After that, I shifted to QA/DI as I found them the most time-consuming. Then I would move to the Verbal and Logical Ability and then to DM. In the last thirty minutes, I would shift to the section which had the least number of answered questions so as to bring my sectional scores at par.

Preparing for XAT is a long and tiring process. How do you suggest one should keep his/her calm and confidence?

It is true that the process can be long and tiring. However, one must always keep an eye on the goal and keep pushing forward. Having a peer group preparing for the same exam can be of great help when one is suffering from low confidence. One of the ways I kept myself motivated was by reading the success stories of students on platforms like Career360.com.


What is your message for XAT 2019 aspirants?

Practice along with proper analysis is the key to success. Give as many mocks as possible and try to understand your own strength and weakness. In the exam day keep your calm and give your best. Eventually, everything falls into place.

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